Sunday, November 6, 2011

Days of the Grackles

Great-Tailed Grackles

Roger here...  How to start?  Our time in south Texas is filled with activity, but the pace is slow.  Does that make any sense?  This post will give a taste of some of the things that keep us busy.  Dianne will start with an explanation of the opening pictures.

Dianne here:  I've loved great-tailed grackles since I first saw them in Coffeyville, Kansas in 2009.  They make the most amazing whistles and crackling noises.  They love my bird seed, but they're too large to roost on the feeder. 

Golden-Fronted Woodpecker
 They congregate on the ground below, looking up at the feeder and waiting for the resident woodpecker (who is a very picky eater) to come and push the small seeds out to get at the peanuts.  Now that the green jays are frequenting my feeder, they help out the grackles, too.

We also still enjoy the gang of mockingbirds who hang out and mainly come for a drink. 

Green Jay
 I've had a couple of exciting additions lately, though:

Inca Doves 
Roger again....  I had a unique experience the other day while riding my bike at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park.  I ride several miles in the park three or four times a week.  During those rides, I have occasionally seen bobcats.  Typically, they are trotting along the road or doing one of those lion-like (I'm in charge) kind of saunters.  As soon as they see me, they bound into the brush.  

It always gives me a thrill to see them, but the interaction last week was the best.  As I turned a corner, I saw a large bobcat walking along the side of the road.  I was approaching him/her from behind.  For some bizarre reason, he did not hear me coming.  I continued approaching, trying to make as little noise as possible.  He did not see me until I was right (within three feet) next to him.  At that point, instead of running, he froze and stared at me.  

We stared at each other for what seemed to be an eternity, but was actually only an instant.  I will never forget those eyes.  I rolled past him about 20 feet and braked the bike.  He remained frozen for about a minute before his eventual leap into the brush.  Something I will never forget.

It all happened too quickly for me to get a picture.  It would have been difficult to get the camera out while riding the bike, and if I had tried, the movement would probably have shortened the encounter.  However, Dianne looked up a link that will take you to a photo of a bobcat that one of our neighbors, John Rosford (a professional photographer), took at our state park.  It will give you a sense of what I saw:  Might even be the same cat!

 This was really one of Dianne's activities, but I was the guy with the camera.  We have been intending to repaint the wooden Adirondack chairs that we have on our back patio for a couple of years now.  They were originally bright red, but over the years they faded to a dark pink.  Dianne was inspired the other day, and located the red paint that we purchased last year for this purpose.  (I am not allowed to touch a paint brush.)  The photo above contrasts the new paint job with the old.  Here is Dianne, hard at work.

We dragged the chairs to the front of the coach house to be painted.  When we were finished, we liked how they looked in the front, AND the front has the only shade in the middle of the day.  Sooo.... We decided to leave them there and order new chairs for the back area.  

The new chairs arrived yesterday.  They are sturdy, heavy, and made of polywood (recycled plastic) so they should last a long time.  It was my job to assemble them.  I had some trouble finding the correct phillips screwdriver to use with the provided screws.  I wanted to use the phillips bit on my electric drill, but the box of bits is lost somewhere in the recesses of our storage room.  Finding them would be far more of a project than struggling with a hand-held screw driver.  
(See why??!!  I'd say we're making the most out of our little storage closet! -- D.)
After a longer than necessary time, struggling with the screwdriver and the screws, the chairs were assembled.  We like the way they look.  (They are comfortable, too --  D.)

Roger here again...  Remember the bit about Dianne painting the chairs and me not being allowed to touch a paint brush?   Well....  Dianne had her very own painting incident.   Since it was nearing wine-thirty and Dianne was working so hard, and because I felt like I should be doing something useful, I brought her a glass of wine.  Guess what happened!  After a few sips of wine,  Dianne dipped the red paint brush into the red wine glass instead of the paint can :-)!!!!!!  What a hoot!

This is not too exciting, but it is something we enjoy.  Every day, the half-mile walk to the dog park involves passing a farmer's field.  Brahman cattle are often grazing in the field.  Before coming here, most of the Indiana cattle that we saw were hereford or black angus.  There are all kinds of cattle in Texas, including longhorns, but the Brahmans are unique.  Evidently, they are well suited for the extremely hot summers here.  Lots of loose skin that allows heat to dissipate.  We love the floppy ears and the hump.  We love watching them graze in the field, just across the fence from the dogs in the dog park, who do not faze them at all.

The dog park here does not have a nice pond like the one in Fishers, IN, but it does have a doggie tub for hot days.  After endless trips retrieving a tennis ball, Bandido heads for the tub, drops the ball in the water and enjoys a good soak.

Soon after, he digs in the water.  Much better than digging in our yard.

Dianne here...  Activity is picking up at the neighborhood dog park.  
A group of us have set up twice-weekly "play dates," which are fun for the adults as well.  As they say, a tired dog is a good dog, so we do our best to wear them out.
Click, Bandido, & Pepper

Pretty Katie
Roger again...  In addition to dog park get-togethers, there are many social opportunities here at Retama.  Here are a few events that we have attended during the past two weeks: 

  Dianne and I enjoyed homemade bierocks, German potato salad, cole slaw, and beer at Retama's Oktoberfest party.  

I attended a couple of the men's breakfasts at Chuey's, a local Mexican restaurant (I crave the Mexican omelets). 

 We have enjoyed sampling new beers a few times with our friends, Jim and Sue, while Bandido plays with their whippets, Gabe and Click. 

We are also attending a weekly butterfly walk the month of November with neighbors John and Audrey, who are naturalists and very knowledgeable guides -- D.

Oh, and Retama has a men's organization called the Lumbermen.  From time to time the group gets together to discuss lumber (that is what we tell our wives).  Evidently, the first meeting took place in a local establishment after a trip to a lumber yard.  Since that time, the group thought it would be safer to meet at someone's house.  I was invited to my first meeting this week.  A riveting discussion of 2X4s ensued.

Dianne...  I'm enjoying water aerobics twice a week.  This Thursday morning it was too cold, so instead Bandido and I took a 5 mile walk to the hawk tower in the state park and back.  He wore his backpack and carried my binoculars and his water. Here he is at the top of the hawk tower on a very windy morning:  

The pet picture of the day shows Bandido's method of telling us it is time to go to the dog park.

If that doesn't make us smile and reach for the leash, he has been known to get "verbal" as shown in this 30-second video snippet:


Jim and Dee said...

I'm catching up on reading blogs! Great job on the chairs.

Malone said...

Nice catching up on all the "not busy" having a good time doing a lot of nothing/everything. Love the talking Bandido!

Gayla said...

Love the audio with Bandido! Thanks for sharing! Note to Roger,Dianne doesn't get wine until the paint brush is down! :)

Gayla said...

Love Bandido's audio! Hilarious!
Word to Roger: No more wine for Dianne until she's finished with paintbrush! :)

Chuck and Anneke's RV travels said...

Good chance to see the bobcat up closer and personnel. Glad it was not like some farther west who might take exception to your sneaking up on him and use his weapons:)

Gin and Syl said...

Lots of activity but it's nice to do things at a slow pace. Maybe we can check out that area sometime.

Nancy and Bill said...

That sounds like a wonderful way to spend your time. Fun activities at a leisurely pace!!